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14.5.11

THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS

 Presentation by MIT Professor Nicholas Askounes Ashford
The Cathedral Center in Brookline, 162 Goddard Avenue, Mass. 02445, at 7:00 PM
Thursday, MAY 19, 2011


Panel discussion to follow with
Prof. Halina Brown, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Clark University
Emmanuel Stefanakis, consultant and advisor in sustainable development
Pantelis Vokonas, MD, the VA and BU School of Medicine

Abstract of Presentation:­

Those that argue that the industrialized state – whether developed or developing – is currently unsustainable emphasize a number of problems. One central problem – reflected in the concept of ‘economic welfare’ – is the failure of government and the private sector to provide essential goods and services for all its citizens. These goods and services include manufactured goods, food, housing, transportation, and health care, among others. The ‘environmental problems’ include toxic pollution, climate change, resource depletion, and problems related to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. The environmental problems stem from the activities concerned with agriculture, manufacturing, extraction, transportation, housing, energy, and services – all driven by the demand of consumers, commercial entities, and government. In addition, there are effects of these activities on the amount, security, and skill of employment, the nature and conditions of work, purchasing power associated with wages, and earning capacity of the world’s citizens.

Whether solutions involving education and human resource development, industry initiatives, government intervention, stakeholder involvement, and financing can resolve these unsustainability problems depends on correcting a number of fundamental flaws in the characteristics of the industrial state:
(1) fragmentation and inadequacy of the knowledge base leading to myopic understanding of fundamental problems and the creation of single-purpose or narrowly-fashioned solutions by technical and political decision-makers;
(2) the inequality of access to economic and political power;
(3) the tendency towards ‘gerontocracy’ – governance of industrial systems by old ideas leading to both technological and political lock-in;
(4) the failure of markets both to correctly price the adverse human and environmental consequences of industrial activity;
(5) the failure of markets to deal sensibly with effects which span long time horizons for which pricing and markets are inherently incapable of solving;
(6) the failure to engage individuals (workers and citizens) in the society to realize their human potential; and
(7) corruption.

While these ‘defects’ are well-understood – and solutions have been proposed -- it has increasingly been suggested that an important fundamental flaw is the expectation that economic growth can and must continue. As the world experienced almost unprecedented economic slowdown and contraction in the last three years, the most immediate challenge is how to fashion a more sustainable economic system in a period of no-growth, little growth, or even negative growth. It is towards this challenge that the presentation is directed.


Biosketches

Nicholas Askounes Ashford is Professor of Technology and Policy at the MIT, where he teaches courses in Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics; and Sustainability, Trade and Environment. Dr. Ashford holds both a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a Law Degree from the University of Chicago, where he also received graduate education in Economics. Dr. Ashford is also adjunct faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health and teaches intensive courses in Sustainable Development, and European & International Environmental Law at Cambridge University, UK and at the Cyprus University of Technology. He is the co-author of two recent textbooks/readers: Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development (2011, Yale University Press) and Environmental Law, Policy and Economics (2008, MIT Press). He has published seven other books and several hundred articles in peer-reviewed journals and law reviews. Dr. Ashford was a public member and chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health, served on the EPA Science Advisory Board, and was chairman of the Committee on Technology Innovation & Economics of the EPA National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology. Dr. Ashford is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has served as an advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme. He currently serves as co-chair of the US-Greece Council for the Initiative on Technology Cooperation with the Balkans.

Halina S. Brown is Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at Clark University. Her research focuses on technological innovation for sustainability, environmental policy, sustainable consumption, sustainable system innovation, and small-scale experimentation and learning; with special interests in energy, housing, and transportation. She is a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the Society for Risk Analysis, and has served on numerous advisory committees for the National Academy of Science, the EPA, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dr. Brown is co-Chair of Citizens’ Commission on Energy in Newton, MA. Her main contribution to the project will be visioning and designing and monitoring small scale experiments.

Emmanuel Stefanakis has thirty years of leadership experience in sustainable development globally. He has advised government, private, nonprofit, academic, and international development sectors on policy, strategy and strategy implementation in 40 countries. His project experience focused on market-based tools to improve sustainability. His projects range from financial mechanisms, urban revitalization plans, new towns, corporate privatization, public policy and design/construction for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), US Agency for International Development (USAID). As an entrepreneur, he implemented sustainable development strategies for profit on affordable, LEED certified housing and recycling of industrial by-products for organic food production. Emmanuel served as President of a college focused on sustainable agriculture, Visiting Professor at the UMass Amherst and faculty in the MBA Program at the Arthur D. Little Management Education Institute. He has designed executive education seminars in the US, Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Southeast Europe and Middle East. He sits on several Boards including the leading renewable energy company in the Caribbean, and the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University. He currently serves on the US-Greece Council for the Initiative on Technology Cooperation with the Balkans (ITCB and serves as a entrepreneurial mentor through the MIT Venture Mentoring Service. He earned degrees from Harvard, UPenn, and UMass Amherst.

Pantel S. Vokonas is a senior internist, cardiologist and gerontologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System. He is also Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the Boston University School of Medicine and the School of Public Health. Since 1984, he has served as Director of the VA Normative Aging Study, a multidisciplinary longitudinal study of the aging process in a cohort of 2,280 initially-healthy men initiated in Boston in 1963. This study has maintained a longstanding focus on both the genetic and environmental determinants of health and disease with advancing age. These factors include the role of life style choices as well as the potential toxic effects of exposure to certain trace metals and multiple components of air pollution. During his clinical and academic career, he has authored or co-authored over 200 clinical/scientific papers and book chapters and is a senior member of several national cardiologic and gerontological societies. Dr. Vokonas completed his undergraduate and medical studies at the Ohio State University and his training in internal medicine at the University of Chicago. He also served as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy followed by cardiology training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

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